It’s been estimated that about 80% of people in the United States have credit report errors.  Those statistics are from 2009, so it’s likely that those numbers are higher in light of the rampant mortgage-related issues over the past few years.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, nobody is allowed to furnish inaccurate or incomplete information about you to a consumer reporting agency. Furnishers of information (typically creditors and debt collectors) have a legal duty to investigate disputes regarding credit report errors, as well as to prevent identity theft and protect sensitive medical information.

If you have errors on your credit report, there are a few things you can to do to fix the problem.

4 Simple Steps To Take If You Find Credit Reporting Errors

If you think there are errors on your credit report you should take these simple steps:

  1. get copies of all three (3) major credit reports – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion;
  2. review every line of every single report – remember, not all credit reports say the same things;
  3. if there’s an error on a report, file a complaint with the CFPB as well as a request for investigation with each credit reporting agency;
  4. review the updated credit reports to ensure that the errors are corrected.

If You Find An Error on Your Credit Report

Federal law provides a mechanism for you to dispute an inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report. The process is simple: notify the credit reporting agency of the error and request that the company investigate it on your behalf.

Sending a letter or calling the creditor or debt collector doesn’t trigger any of your credit reporting rights.

Though this takes some time and effort, most disputes result in getting the error resolved.

In addition, you have a right to sue not only the furnisher of information but also the credit reporting agency for damages if the errors continue after the dispute process.

Get the Government Involved

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been the primary enforcer of the Fair Credit Reporting Act since 2012. Since that time, the consumer watchdog has handled approximately 105,000 credit reporting complaints.

The problems appears to be worsening, with complaints about credit reports up 45 percent nationally in the past year. The most common of those complaints revolve around incorrect information in their reports.

If you’ve gone through the dispute process under federal credit reporting laws but the errors aren’t corrected, you can file a complaint with the CFPB by clicking here.

Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act include suing the credit reporting agency as well as the entity that provided the incorrect or incomplete information.Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.

But those rights exist only if the investigation process hasn’t solved your problem. The law understands that mistakes are made when it comes to reporting information, and provides a way for you to correct those mistakes. It’s only when your best efforts fail that the right to sue kicks in.

If you need to sue for a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be able to recover damages as well as legal fees and costs. Even if you haven’t suffered a loss due to the inaccurate credit reporting, you may be able to recover some money under the law.

More important, a successful lawsuit for a violation of your credit reporting rights will lead to the errors being corrected.

Other Laws May Impact Your Rights

Entities that furnish information to credit reporting agencies are often governed under laws other than the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For example:

  • The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act has rules applicable to debt collectors.
  • The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act applies to reporting of credit information by mortgage servicers under certain circumstances.
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) contains rules on reporting of information by creditors after receipt of a consumer’s written dispute of certain credit card and similar billing errors.
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) bars creditors from discriminating against consumers and protects consumers in “every aspect” of the parties’ dealings, including the “furnishing of credit information.
  • The California Rosenthal Act has rules applicable to creditors and debt collectors.

These other laws may help you depending on the type of problem you uncover on your credit report.

Your credit report provides the only way for strangers to make certain decisions about you – potential landlords, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, car finance companies, credit card issuers, and even employers. Making sure your credit report is free from errors can be one of the most important parts of ensuring a healthy financial life.